World Education Services (WES) is a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping international students, immigrants, and refugees achieve their educational and career goals in the United States and Canada. The weekly roundup includes research, stories, and events of interest to the Canadian immigration and settlement community. This content has been created by WES and is reproduced here with their permission, in partnership.
As of April 29, IRCC had over 2 million individuals awaiting decisions on their immigration applications. The global pandemic, border closures and the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Ukraine have all contributed to the backlog’s growing numbers. However, Immigration Minister Fraser recently announced at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration that IRCC aims to return processing times for many immigration pathways by the end of the 2022. Current improvements have included more staffing and significant investments in modernizing IRCC’s systems. Minister Fraser also suggested that further changes were coming to the Express Entry system, in hopes for more targeted selection of individuals to fill sector and skills needs across the country.
Due to shortages in health care professionals, smaller communities, primarily across rural areas in Canada are at risk of poorer health outcomes. Recently, local governments have worked towards building strategies to attract and retain skilled immigrants to rural communities, with a priority on health care professionals. Existing programs such as the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot have expanded to focus on the recruitment of internationally educated health care professionals (IEHPs) to work in underserved communities. However, many have been unsuccessful at keeping skilled talent such as IEHPs in smaller communities. Several programs seek to incentivize settlement in rural communities for short term work, however, do not address root challenges that lead to IEHP withdrawal from smaller regions. Such causes include social and professional isolation. Factors that contribute to higher rates of social isolation include separation from family and loved ones; limited social connections; limited access to cultural and religious supports; reduced access to settlement services; and the heightened risk of racism and discrimination. When looking at the professional challenges, many identify longer work hours with limited vacation due to reduced number of available staff, as well as the limited opportunities for professional development and career advancement locally. Program and policy solutions to better integrate IEHPs and support their practice outside of urban areas should prioritize highlighting the benefits of settlement in smaller communities and address factors that contribute to professional and social isolation.
Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) program was last revised almost thirty years ago, and the federal government is currently undergoing a two-year review of the program. Since its last update in the 1990s, the employment landscape has changed drastically especially since the onset of COVID-19. Currently EI has been criticized as a complex system with many gaps for workers in need. Eligibility requirements overlook the rising number of workers that are self-employed, in precarious employment and the gig economy. The Institute for Research on Public Policy recently convened a working group of experts to provide options for modernizing the EI program. Among several suggested improvements, the working group identified prioritizing simplifying the eligibility rules and improvements to special benefits like maternity and paternity leaves. Moving forward, challenges to the EI program will remain post pandemic, so Canada needs to ameliorate the EI program for the inclusion of workers that are truly in need.
Globally displacement crises have been on the rise with the latest including Syria, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Myanmar, South Sudan, and Ukraine. Since late February 2022, nearly 6 million Ukrainians have fled their home country in wake of the Russian invasion. The most recent mass migration crises will fundamentally shift international humanitarian response regimes - leaving many programs vulnerable. Yet, crises can allow for the examination of current programs and present opportunities to create and scale innovative practices. Some countries have opted for refugee or temporary programs as protective pathways. However, like Canada, some have adopted complementary pathways as means to providing protection. Streams often prioritize family reunification, labour and education opportunities and community and private sponsorship refugee resettlement and humanitarian admission. Although these pathways have become increasingly popular in recent years - they benefit a smaller number of people. Successful programs will need to recognize and grapple with persistent challenges that pose risks to evacuation and integration - processing delays, limited housing capacity, disrupted education, mental health concerns, and social networks. A coordinated effort to scale funding and policy frameworks is required to apply a renewed focus on inclusive resettlement and community-driven integration programming.